President Trump might have to revoke support for Iraq due to domestic infighting and the growing influence of Iran, a prominent Republican suggested Thursday.
A clash between the Iraqi central government and a semi-autonomous ethnic minority seeking independence has brought two key U.S. partners to blows. The Trump administration opposed the Kurdish referendum calling for independence and favors the central government maintaining sovereignty.
But, the U.S. is also refusing to overtly take sides in the fight, even as Iranian forces partner with the Baghdad to take the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, which had been held by the Kurds.
"Should the Government of Iraq continue down this path and effectively act as a puppet of Iran, it would require a reevaluation of U.S. support to the country," Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Thursday.
Cruz also endorsed the Kurdish desire to form an independent state, given their reliability and effective fighting against the Islamic State in Iraq.
Trump's administration, like former President Barack Obama before him, opposes that idea, but it's gaining steam in Congress. Like Cruz, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., backs the Iraqi Kurds' push for independence.
"Democracies across the globe should recognize the efforts made by the Kurdistan Regional Government to achieve self-determination, in the face of regional actors threatening their very livelihood," Cruz said.
It's knotty issue for the United States, however, because other American allies in the region feel a significant threat from the prospect of the Kurdish state. Turkey, a member of NATO, has been fighting a separatist Kurdish movement for decades. U.S. cooperation with Kurds in Iraq and Syria has stoked concerns that the Kurds might try to form a state that crosses the borders of all those neighboring powers.
At the same time, the Iranian-backed Shia militias in northern Iraq also oppose the formation of a state, meaning one of the leading U.S. adversaries in the world has overlapping interests with the central government of Iraq and Turkey.
"We must not permit our support or our military equipment to be used by Iranian-backed militias toward a new, ill-conceived operation that is counter to U.S. interests," Cruz said. "Iran's dangerous influence is far-reaching, only emboldened with billions of dollars in sanctions relief after the catastrophic nuclear deal."
It's a troubling development for American interests that coincide with the last gasps of ISIS as a land-holding terrorist group.
An American-led coalition is in the final stages of liberating Raqqa, their last major stronghold in Syria. But, in Iraq and Syria, Iran is moving to secure territory that will allow them to have a long-term military influence in both countries and direct contact with their terrorist proxies in Lebanon.
It comes as no surprise to Iran hawks in Congress, however.
"The day after Raqqa falls is going to be the moment that Iran moves to try to oust the United States from the region," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told the Washington Examiner in February.